Counting down the days – China trip 2017

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There is always an excuse not to blog when you have a blog. No inspiration, maybe a writers block. But that’s not the case when it comes to this blog. Yes, it has been a bit quiet the last two weeks or so, but it’s because something cool is coming up.

Next Tuesday I will leave Amsterdam for Dubai. Bore myself for a couple of hours. And then board for the flight to Shanghai, China! It will be a little tea trip, and hopefully much more.

Now China is something special to me. It all started in 2010, when… No this is not going to be a three hour Hobbit-horror. I’ll keep it short, but I like to tell you a bit about my story with China and the upcoming trip. I’ve included some random pictures that I encountered scrolling through my albums the last few days and brought me back to the magic places and memories.

So, the story. In 2010 I got stranded in Australian floods and had to get back to Sydney, where I had spent over a month. I wasn’t really keen on spending a lot of time in Sydney again, and since my friend had to get back to Holland because of an health issue, I decided to shake things up. I called China Airlines, asked when their first flight out was and what the destination was and when I heard Taipei, Taiwan, I just said ‘Book it’.

The look on your face when a half naked lady approaches you and the whole train is watching. Never a boring day in China.

2013. The look on your face when a half naked lady approaches you and the whole train is watching.

Taiwan was my very first Asian country I visited and I liked it. A lot. I had a great couple of months and even returned a year later. Of course, I didn’t know anything about tea back then. I cycled half the island, passing the same mountains I now drink tea from. Haven’t seen any tea. Haven’t drank any.

2013. Going for an evening ride in Dunhuang.

2013. Going for an evening ride in Dunhuang, China.

A year later I decided to go to China, because Taiwan had sparked something in me. The Mainland was the next destination and it was a summer never to be forgotten. One day I can’t stand China because of all its problems, the other day I love it with all my heart. Because of its stunning nature, its bizarreness, but mostly because of the people. Yes, they can be overwhelming in numbers, especially in the city, but speaking to one in person they are the most kind, open-hearted, hospitable people I’ve met so far. Never have I been offered so many rides, so many dinners, so many places to sleep. And on top of all that, China was the place where my girlfriend and I met. In Chengdu to be precise. Almost five years have passed since.

2013. Ghost City Kangbashi.

2013. Ghost City Kangbashi.

During my two big trips and one short trip to China I wasn’t aware of tea. So growing an interest in Chinese tea the last couple of years, I regretted all the months I spent in China without tea. But I looked forward as well, to the moment I could go back to China. To travel again, and to learn more about tea.

Now that time has come. It’s going to be a short trip, around three weeks, and it will be very hard to really study tea in China in that amount of time. So let’s just say it’s more of a tea experience. Appreciating tea and the effort and skills the farmers put into every single leaf is of great importance when drinking tea. I want to see with my own eyes the work needed to make tea, and I want to feel the environment the tea is grown in. It will hopefully make me appreciate tea even more.

As you know I will fly to Shanghai on Tuesday and I will immediately go to Wuxi to visit a friend who, legend says, I once saved from drowning in a pool in Utrecht. Although it went more like this:
Li: How deep is the pool?
Jelmer: No idea, quite deep.
Li: Okay, maybe too deep for me. Thank you.
Jelmer: No worries. (Thinking: Boom! Saved the guy from drowning!)

Dutch pools can be quite dangerous for swimming if you're used to Chinese pools like this.

Empty Dutch pools can be quite dangerous if you’re used to Chinese ones.

Anyway, we stayed good friends all those years after he left Utrecht and went back to China. Now we finally meet again. Together we can hopefully make some visits to the Bi Luo Chun area and either Hangzhou (Long Jing) or Anji County (Anji Bai Cha). After that I’ll resume my travels towards Anhui (Huangshan, Qimen) and then go down to Wuyishan, the ultimate goal on my little tea trip. These plans are all really vague. I have some contacts I hope I can visit in the regions, but if I learned anything from my previous travels in China, it is to just go with the flow. Maybe you don’t see everything you wish to see, but your time will be great if you just take the opportunities that come your way. We’ll see how everything turns out.

I want to share as much as I can with you guys on Tea Leafster. Sharing the things I see and learn is a learning experience for me as well. But most of the content will come after the trip, as I’d like to enjoy my time in China as much as I can. I hope I know how to use some new camera and filmgear during the trip and if so, I’ll be editing a movie when I get back in Holland. You can follow my travels during the trip on Instagram and Facebook and I’ll give updates a few times a week on my blog.

I tried not to, but I’m afraid this piece is of considerable size by now. Going to wrap up, work on the last preparations and I’ll see you guys on Instagram, or once I’m in China! 

2012. Tibetan Monastery, Southern Gansu

2012. Tibetan Monastery, Southern Gansu

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